Quartz Daily Brief – Europe Edition – Chinese opacity, SEC hacked, business of pot

November 9, 2012
November 9, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

More opaque pronouncements from Beijing. The 18th Communist Party congress, which began yesterday and will culminate in the unveiling of a new leadership next week, continues. Beijingologists will be looking out for more clues to future policy after outgoing leader Hu Jintao’s enigmatic injunction yesterday to “not take the old path that is closed and rigid, nor must we take the evil road of changing flags and banners.” Hu also called for a doubling of both household income and GDP by 2020, to be achieved by “steadily enhanc[ing] the vitality of the state-owned sector of the economy and its capacity to leverage and influence the economy.” The FT has a useful walk-through for anyone following along at home.

The SEC responds to hacking allegations. The regulator left its computers open to hackers by failing to encrypt sensitive information that had been supplied by stock exchanges, Reuters reported, citing sources.  It is not yet known which stock exchange data could have been accessed on the computers affected. But embarrassingly, the lapse occurred in the regulator’s trading and markets division, which is responsible for “making sure exchanges follow certain guidelines to protect the markets from potential cyber threats,” Reuters said.

An Anglo-Indian booze-up. Diageo, the UK-based global liquor giant behind brands like Johnny Walker and Smirnoff, is in the process of finalizing the purchase of a 50% share in India’s largest liquor distributor, United Spirits Ltd. That share in USL, which sells half of India’s liquor in a market that has grown 10% per year, will be worth $2 billion. USL majority owner Vijay Malla has a strong incentive to sell. He owns Kingfisher Airlines, which is in financial trouble.

While you were sleeping

Some good news for the China bulls. Consumer price inflation fell to 1.7% in October from a year earlier, its lowest reading since January 2010. Lower increases in food prices were the main reason. The government’s inflation target is 4%. Economists at HSBC said in a note that benign inflation will allow the Chinese government to press ahead with economic stimulus measures.

Barack to Burma. The newly re-elected President Barack Obama will tour Asia in November and will cap the trip with the first ever visit by an American president to Myanmar, where American diplomatic pressure has contributed to recent advances in human rights and a new government. Obama will meet with Nobel Peace Prize-winning democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi; he’ll also visit Cambodia and Thailand.

BP moved closer to a Gulf of Mexico oil spill settlement. The oil producer and the 13,000 plaintiffs suiing it for compensation following the worst oil spill in history have asked a judge to approve a $7.8 billion class action settlement. This is probably not BP’s final damages bill, however. The company still faces civil and criminal liability charges brought by the US government and US states. Ratings agency Moody’s said last year that the disaster could cost BP a total of $60 billion.

In Syria’s civil war, President Bashar al-Assad warned against foreign intervention. The embattled leader gave an interview with Russian television promising to live and die in his war-torn country.

Quartz obsession interlude

Naomi Rovnick on India’s $1 trillion man, Kamal Nath: “Every few months, he pops up at a foreign investment forum or press conference to proclaim that he has a “trillion dollar budget” for infrastructure. Talk—even $1 trillion talk —is cheap. But India isn’t making any progress on its potholed roads. The Times of India reported on Nov. 5 that while the government has targeted building 9,500 km of new roads by March 2013, just 600 km of contracts have so far been awarded by the National Highways Agency. Private companies in India seemingly do not want long term infrastructure projects.” Read more here

Simone Foxman on the business of legal pot. “Now that two US states have legalized marijuana—not just for medical use, but for people to just plain enjoy—are we about to see an explosion in the pot industry? Probably not…. the key complication with turning grass into big business is that though states may give it the thumbs-up, it remains illegal at the federal level, creating a legislative gray area.” Read more here. 

Matters of debate

Just about everything in Greece’s new austerity package has been tried before, and failed

Can Rio secure the favelas before Brazil hosts the World Cup and the Olympics? The country launches a new anti-gang push.

Why did Obama win reelection when so many of his global peers lost? Part of the secret’s in the stimulus.

He also won because of all the single ladies who love him. So he needs to look after them, as they are America’s fastest growing voting bloc.

While Mitt Romney lost because of a shameful record on immigration policy. Real talk from a chagrined Wall Street Republican.

Hurricane Sandy is a warning sign. America should prepare for the coming wave of scarcity.

Surprising discoveries

Apple stock is the cheapest its been since 2001. At least, it is on a price-to-earnings basis.

The founder of the anti-virus industry is holed up in the jungles of Belize. That actually sounds quite nice.

NASA set to unveil secret post-election plans for moonbase. And it’s going to be on the dark side!

Donald Trump’s absurd comb-over is patented. So is the wheel. And other examples of intellectual property gone mad.

The world’s 200 richest people. Mexican titan Carlos Slim, with a net worth of $77.5 billion, tops the list, who are collectively worth $2.7 trillion. To put that in perspective, he could purchase the entire yearly economic output of a country like Ecuador and still be higher on the list than Mark Zuckerberg, no. 88. The new list, compiled by Bloomberg, also includes 30 new “hidden billionaires”, and the man who rose from being a poor soda-seller to mainland China’s richest person.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, billion-dollar liquor deals and insights into China’s Politburo to hi@qz.com.

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